Harikishan Goswami was in Delhi last week. No reaction? Okay. Let’s say that again. Manoj Kumar was in Delhi last week. The 71-year-old patriot-cum-actor was in the capital to attend a retrospective of his films marking his 50 years in Indian cinema.
No point beating about the bush. You ask him about Om Shanti Om. “It’s a filthy topic,” he says. “What is the logic [in the scene in which Shah Rukh Khan lampoons him]? Are the Bombay Police so dumb that they will beat up the real Manoj Kumar?” he says, coughing deep into a towel.
Kumar doesn’t look too fit these days. He’s suffering from a hip dislocation, chest congestion, a slip disc and his circulatory system doesn’t allow him to travel by air. (He travelled by train.) But all this, he says, doesn’t deter him from doing ‘what he “does best”: filmmaking. He wants to revive an old project he started some 15 years ago: ‘With Love From India’. “Negotiations were on with Hollywood stars, ‘but my friend Hinduja, who was part of the film, suffered a personal tragedy, so we shelved it.”
Since his 1965 role in Shaheed, a film based on Bhagat Singh, Kumar has been every patriotic Indian’s poster-boy. So does he follow contemporary ‘patriotic films’? “I don’t want to compare Sunny Deol’s and Ajay Devgan’s films with mine. I don’t want to lie... But today’s youth has a lot of anger, as was evident in Rang De Basanti… and it clicked. Chak De was a good film. It was different. Lagaan was good, though it wasn’t patriotic as most think it to be. Swades was a good try but very dry. Idealism is missing from society and today’s filmmakers are products of the same society.”
He’s not keen at all about filmmakers trying to make “international cinema”. For him, a director can make international cinema only when he’s made good national cinema first. “Copying others will not make your work better.”
Before leaving, one has to know the secret about his trademark ‘hand-over-face’ gesture. “That was never my mannerism. It was a scene in the film Clerk that was deleted. The clerk was a dejected man who resorted to cheating. That gesture was to hide his face from the world.”
Okay. So now we know that Shah Rukh or Farah Khan aren’t to blame for that hand on that face.